Pharmacy Practice Faculty Presentations

Transforming Ethics Education to Develop Empathy in Pharmacy Students

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Event Date



American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Annual Meeting


Boston, MA


Objectives: Teaching pharmacy students to be effective clinicians and empathetic caregivers is essential for delivering comprehensive pharmaceutical care; however there are inherent difficulties in teaching and evaluating empathetic responses in pharmacy students. Our objectives were to help prepare students for the ethical and therapeutic issues associated with chemotherapy-related morbidity and mortality situations by integrating the teaching of our Ethics and Oncology courses. Method: The 30-item Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale (BEES) was used to evaluate emotional empathy in third year pharmacy students at Wingate University School of Pharmacy enrolled in the Ethics and Oncology Pharmacology courses. The 50 minute courses were delivered back-to-back, twice weekly for five weeks. 56 of 64 students completed a pre- and post-course module empathy questionnaire. Informed consent and IRB approval was established. The teaching of ethical issues associated with death and dying were integrated with pharmacology. The film Wit was used to humanize lecture content. Ethics issues were also incorporated into pharmacology quizzes to draw out humanistic aspects of care. Results: We were seeking an improvement in empathy scores as an outcome of our integrated course offering. Preliminary assessment of raw scores shows 34 of 56 students' demonstrating gain in their empathy score. There was a statistically significant increase in post-test scores as compared to pre-test scores (p < 0.05). Implications: Preliminary data suggest a positive impact on developing empathy attitudes in pharmacy students by transforming ethics education from stand-alone ethics and therapeutics courses to an integrated, team approach. This format will continue and further study will follow.


Ethics education, empathy, pharmacy students